It’s an onward struggle to get decent female roles to the big screen. And by decent, we mean a meaty, leading part, and not the standard beautiful, anti-heroine. But because prime parts such as this are few, actresses have to resort to different measures; it’s not enough to simply act anymore. Wild star Reese Witherspoon was victim to this in the form of a mid-career slump. She won her Oscar for Walk The Line at just thirty and soon realised she was no longer doing (or getting offered) projects that resonated with women. Eventually, she set up a production company to helm her own projects, and this proved fruitful, bringing a series of films and new TV series Big Little Lies to the small screen.
With five main parts for women — the show based on the Liane Moriarty novel of the same name — allowed Witherspoon to surround herself with talented actresses after years of being the only woman on a set. “For 25 years I’ve been the only woman on set—they call it the Smurfette Syndrome. She’s the only woman around—who gave birth to all those Smurfs anyway? — so I had no women to talk to,” Witherspoon said.
We need to see real women’s experience whether it involves domestic violence,sexual assault or motherhood or romance or infidelity or divorce. We need to see these things because we as human beings we learn from art and what can you do if you never see it reflected?
“Smurfette Syndrome” and the idea of that isolation; that women are going it alone in a world that typically favours the man is more relevant than ever in 2017. Just look at Trump. He’s a brash, sexist bully (to put it mildly), yet his every outburst makes headlines for days. He’s not painted in a good light, but that’s far from the point. This is what Trump and his disgusting ego want; to keep the media machine pumping, without a care for his actions (in contrast, his wife gets much of the blame for his despicable comments directed at her). Johnny Depp remains a misunderstood Hollywood hero whereas his estranged former wife Amber Heard is blasted as an “attention-seeker” for trying to raise awareness for victims of domestic abuse. Casey Affleck makes front page news with barely a whisper of the women he allegedly assaulted. And even Madonna is hounded these days, simply for being Madonna.
The point is that we still have too many Smurfettes in 2017. Too many women fighting the fight by themselves, their words falling on deaf ears in life and on a screen. It isn’t enough for say, Ashton Kutcher to applaud his co-star for publicly saying she was paid three times less than he was for a leading role, it means nothing. We need to see real action, real change and more rooms or movie sets filled to the brim with women, ready to stand up and say, enough is enough and go to kick some ass.